Illinois Basketball: 5 big questions for the Illini against Colgate

Illinois v Tennessee
Illinois v Tennessee / Eakin Howard/GettyImages
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4. Can Illinois keep up the hot free throw shooting?

Last season really left a bad taste in my mouth. Illinois didn’t play well toward the end, and for the entire season, this program was bad at free throw shooting.

Illinois finished the 2022-23 campaign shooting 67.9% from the free throw line, which ranked No. 309 in the country. There were only 363 teams in DI basketball.

To start this season, things didn’t seem much better. Illinois was struggling once again. But, as of late, the Illini seem to be hitting from the charity stripe. So, that leaves me to wonder, can Illinois keep up the hot free throw shooting?

Through the Rutgers game this season, Illinois was one of the four worst teams in the country in free throw shooting. We were hitting our free throws at a clip of 57.8%, which ranked No. 359 out of 362 teams in DI basketball.

Over the last two games, things have changed for Illinois at the free throw line. The season shooting percentage is up to 66.5%, which ranks No. 295 in the nation.

Illinois was able to get to the charity stripe for 20 attempts against Florida Atlantic and made 18 free throws. That comes out to 90% from the free throw line. We had 28 free throw attempts against Tennessee and hit 24 of those free throws, which is 85.7%.

I think most people are going to point to Dain Dainja when it comes to the free throw percentage, but I don’t believe he is the sole reason why the free throw shooting is off. Dainja has only attempted a free throw in four out of nine games this season, so he can’t be blamed for everything.

I honestly believe it was just a rough patch to begin the season for Illinois. Decent free throw shooters were missing attempts. That seems to have been corrected, though. If Illinois can have another game of shooting over 70% from the free throw line, then I think this is a trend.